Status Report

NASA HQ Special Notice: NASA’s Day of Remembrance

By SpaceRef Editor
January 26, 2006
Filed under ,
NASA HQ Special Notice: NASA’s Day of Remembrance

Sent: Thursday, January 26, 2006 08:57
To: JSC-DL-JSC-Civil-Servants; DL JSC Contractors
Subject: HQ SPECIAL NOTICE – NASA’s Day of Remembrance


Today we pause to remember the loss of our Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia astronauts and to honor their legacy. To this end, I will visit Arlington National Cemetery to lay a wreath in their memory.

Nearly fifty years into the space age, spaceflight remains the pinnacle of human challenge, an endeavor just barely possible with today’s technology. We at NASA are privileged to be in the business of learning how to do it, to extend the frontier of the possible and ultimately to make the possible routine. It is an enormously difficult enterprise, made more so by the fact that we are human beings, and flawed. The losses we commemorate today are a mute and terrible reminder of the sternness of the challenge, and of awful consequences of our flaws.

It has always been this way. We celebrate Lindbergh as the first to fly non-stop from New York to Paris. But he wasn’t the first to try. Chuck Yeager made history as the pilot who broke the “sound barrier.” He wasn’t the first to try, either. School children are taught of Magellan’s pioneering voyage around the world. But only one of his five ships and 18 of the roughly 250 original sailors completed the voyage. Magellan himself didn’t make it back; he was killed in the Philippines. About half of the settlers who set out on the Oregon Trail, or for the California gold fields, didn’t make it. Amelia Earhart didn’t make it. Today is the day we remember, and honor, those of our own who didn’t make it back.

And how do we remember and honor them? No one has ever said it better than Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg: “It is for us, the living … that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.” And just as we fly safely today because of the lessons learned from the loss of earlier generations of aviators, so also is spaceflight safer because of the losses we remember at this time of the year. The spacecraft fire hazards and the bolted hatch that killed the Apollo 1 crew will not kill another. The solid rocket booster that was responsible for the loss of Challenger is today the most reliable space transportation element we have. And the devastating effects of seemingly harmless debris upon Columbia are forever emblazoned on our consciousness. These are mistakes that will not be made again.

But as we remember those who have fallen, we must also honor them by acknowledging, humbly, that they cannot be the last. We have not made our last mistake in learning the art and science of spaceflight. There are places in Arlington Cemetery, and elsewhere, waiting for others who have yet to pay the ultimate price for our human failings. We do not know who, or why, or when, but it will come. We pray, today, that it will be a very long time. Let us on this Day of Remembrance honor our lost companions by resolving to make it so.

Michael Griffin
NASA Administrator

Point of contact: Dean Acosta, Public Affairs, (202) 358-1400

SpaceRef staff editor.